Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hope

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. While our society has been gearing up for Christmas for weeks, for Christians, “traditionally” the season begins a little slower and a little more reflective. Each week, a candle is lit as a way of counting down until the nativity of Jesus.

Each candle focuses on some promise of God that keeps us moving toward the gift of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The first Sunday of Advent, the candle is the candle of Hope.

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I don’t know about you, but I need hope. I am not naturally a “hope-less” person. The world, however, is relentless in its violence, its chaos and its craziness. Two short weeks ago there were terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris. Boko Haram continues to terrorize countries in Africa, racial unrest in Chicago and other American cities and then a shooting where three people died and nine people were injured at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs.

When will it end? How will end? I don’t know the answers to those questions, what I know is that as a person of faith I am called to have hope. The season of Advent is all about hope, in the one who came a long time ago and hope for the time that is coming when justice, righteousness, peace and love will reign for all people.  Anne Lamott puts it this way:

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I don’t want to give into to despair or to give into fear. All the “angel” stories start out with “Do not be afraid.” It is the basic message of God to God’s beloved children. Hope does not give into fear. Hope leads us into faith, into love and into trusting the grace God has for us in the midst of life’s craziness.

I am not interested in something simplistic and silly. I want hope that means something. I want hope that isn’t into some kind of game where there are winners and losers. I want hope that points to something more mysterious and wonderful than I can possibly imagine.

So I come into the season of Advent hungry for a Hope that leads to justice, to peace and to love. So I always begin the season with the ancient hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  The band Sugarland sings this as well as any I know. Their rendition is hauntingly beautiful. Listening to them sing, I offer my longing for peace as a prayer for hope, not just sometime in the future, but for this moment, this day and this season.

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Giving Thanks

Today I give thanks for so many things: family, friends, a job, a home I love, a chance to cook and for the people who will gather around my table tomorrow. Thanksgiving week usually tends to be a slower week at church, even though we are gearing up for Advent.

Today, once I got home, it was full swing into getting ready for company. We had kids and grandkids coming home. We finished up cleaning and making beds. For me, it was cooking and baking.

I tend to do as much preparation as I can before a big feast day. I want to enjoy the day and not spend the whole time in the kitchen. Tomorrow, three of us will participate in the ‘Say Grace’ 5K race in the morning. The money supports a ministry of the United Methodist Church and it’s fun.

So, today I made a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, caramel apple banana muffins, a cranberry tart.

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I tasted the cranberry curd….oh my is it tasty! I also bought pies from the youth, so dessert is covered! We smoked a natural ham in the smoker and I I just pulled the turkey out of the oven.

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My twin sister is bringing the green bean casserole and the make ahead mashed potatoes. The 7 layer jello salad will be done before the evening is out. There will be relishes, corn and dressing to finish up tomorrow.

When it is all said and done there will be ten around my table and I couldn’t be happier. Surrounded by love and laughter, that for me is the bedrock of Thanksgiving. The food is important, but the fellowship is what makes the feast.

So from my house to yours, may you experience love and laughter this Thanksgiving and may grace and gratitude bless you.

 

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Resting on Sunday

Today has been a typical Sunday. Church was wonderful. The youth delivered their pies, we were challenged to remember to give thanks.

This afternoon, I had plans. Thanksgiving is this week and my to do list is long for home and for church. I laid for my normal every week Sunday “sacred nap.” I woke up after about 10 minutes, but decided to stay in bed a little longer.

Two hours later, I finally drug myself out of bed. I told my husband, “maybe we could go for a walk,” but we didn’t. There was an event down at Century II I thought about attending. I just couldn’t move. I was tired, really tired.

Then this came across my facebook newsfeed from Love What Matters:

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My husband said, “pay attention. You always work, it is okay to just take the afternoon off.”

So I have. I read the paper, the Sunday paper ON Sunday. I have watched a little football with my husband (don’t ask who is playing.) I have done basically nothing.

Tomorrow will be here soon enough. I will have a very long to do list, a three day week at church will require me to be at the top of my game to be ready to have a holiday. The house will have chores to be done and food to be prepared. What will get done, will get done. Today, I rest. I replenish, I refill, I refresh. I am grateful for the time to do so. It is enough.

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Thanksgiving Chores and Preparations

Recently the world has erupted in anger, chaos and violence. Mostly I have been distracted and saddened, deeply saddened by the hatred and anger simmering under the surface. In the midst of all, though, I, can not always think about these terrorist attacks and refugees and all things that are wrong and unjust.

In fact, with the Thanksgiving holiday just a week away, I am juggling work and how to get ready to have our family home. The past two days, I have begun the preparations. Certain chores I don’t mind and others are not so much fun.

Cooking gives me joy. I love all the preparation for baking and cooking. Grocery shopping makes me happy. I actually enjoy ironing the tablecloths and napkins and polishing the silver. I am not so fond of all the dusting and mopping and vacuuming.

Today, all the napkins have been ironed. I have worked on organizing the third floor where the grandchildren will be sleeping. Much more work will need to be done in order for everything to ready.

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Wednesday night at the church I serve, I taught a “stress free holiday cooking” class. It was great fun and my prayer is that it was helpful. For those who want some recipes that would make Thanksgiving easier, I offer these three that are tasty, fast and make the preparations a little easier.

CranApple Sauce

5 apples (granny smith, gala, Jonathon or your favorite)

peeled and chunked

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 cup concentrated cranberry apple juice

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook about 10 minutes until it becomes a chunky sauce. Can be served warm or cold

cranberryapple-complete

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes (Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes)

5 pounds russet potatoes

8 ounces cream cheese

8 ounces sour cream

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt  and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

  1. Peel and cook potatoes.
  2. Drain well and mash until smooth.
  3. Add cream cheese, sour cream, seasonings and butter.
  4. Beat with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Place in lightly greased casserole dish.
  6. Dot with more butter.
  7. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
  8. Bake at 350 until heated through (about 30-45 min.)

Creamy-Oven-Baked-Mashed-Potatoes

Spicy Sweet Potato Mash

1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 ½ tablespoons real maple syrup

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot smoked paprika or to taste

Wash the outside of the sweet potatoes and pierce all over with a fork and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Add the butter and mix well.

Crush the thyme in with your fingers and add the pumpkin, syrup, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Using a potato masher or a large folk, mash the potatoes until smooth. Place the potato mash back into the microwave and heat for 1 minute or two.

The potatoes can be baked in the oven and the mash itself can be placed in the oven to heat. If you want to fancy it up, you could sprinkle chopped pecans over the top, or chopped spicy pecans over the top.

However you celebrate, may your preparations not be too taxing, your anticipation delicious and in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our world, may you gratitude be a gift of grace and love.

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Some additional thoughts on Paris and a Christian perspective

My Bishop, Scott Jameson Jones wrote a blog on the the Syrian Refugee crisis. He writes from a historical perspective as well as a Christian one. I find his words far more articulate and powerful than I could have written. I share them with you as many of us continue to wrestle with how to be Christian in a world that spews hatred and violence.

Bishop Scott Jones

I also share what United Methodist’s  believe about other religions and immigrants.

The United Methodist Reporter

I, for one, plan to remain faithful to welcoming the stranger and immigrant.

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Finding the Center in the midst of craziness

I am struggling to make sense of the craziness of the world. The struggle is not new of course, but still, within a couple of days, social media is filled with people angry, frightened and ready to do unspeakable things in the name of safety and security.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have brought the best of the worst of humanity to the forefront. I have been heart sick over the comments and posts that no matter what, none of “those” refugees will be allowed into Kansas, or Texas or anyone of about two dozen states. Children and women and men who fleeing for their lives. Women and children who are being raped and sold into slavery.

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I don’t have enough wisdom or knowledge to truly write about these issues other than to believe that I can not claim the name Christian and turn my back on those who are fleeing such horror. I do not choose to live in fear, and to claim that God wants us to take care of the least and lost.

Better writers and minds than mine have written numerous blogs and news stories. I will write something in the next day or two. Later than everyone I suppose, but I need more centering and prayer before I am prepared to put my thoughts out into cyberspace.

I am part of group called RevGalBlogPals who have taken the challenge to blog daily during November. I haven’t made it every day, but each day a “prompt” is posted on facebook. Today’s has to do with what keeps one connected to God and to others.

So in responding to that prompt, I am aware there are many things I do to recenter myself when I am overwhelmed, confused, scared, or just need to be reminded of who I am. I pray, I read, I cook. Cooking is practical and creates something that is helpful. Everyone needs to eat. So I can do something that makes a difference in that moment. I listen to music, occasionally watch television or movies. I find a way to laugh and smile.

I think true “power” lies not in how strong one might be, but in the ability to find joy in the midst of all: tragedy, grief, pain, sickness, uncertainty and fear. Today, I ran across video that features dancers from old time movies in a mashup using Old Town Funk. It made me smile today and I have watched it a couple of times.

http://www.slate.com/articles/video/video/2015/11/mashup_of_uptown_funk_and_hollywood_golden_era_movie_dancing_video.html

In the midst of life that would grind us down, I share this for a smile and moments respite. May joy infuse our lives. May a little laughter bring some happiness in the midst of a time that would wear us down and bring us despair. Today, I choose faith, I choose hope and I choose life.

 

 

 

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Sunday’s Ponderings: Promise and Hope

It has been a long day. Sunday’s usually are, but today came with two worship services, a “pizza with pastors” and a funeral. So it would be an understatement to say I am tired. I am tired and blessed.

Today was in church terms Consecration or Stewardship Sunday. Many congregations spend a few weeks preparing their congregations to offer pledges to budget for the coming year of ministry. Churches do this because it’s practical. Money is needed to pay the bills.

Today was that day at the church I serve West Heights United Methodist Church. This would not normally be a problem, but I am not one of those preachers that can ignore what is happening in my community, state, nation or world. When the news hit about Paris and Beirut, I knew my sermon would have to change.

The interesting thing is that the prayers and liturgy didn’t change. The words of the music and scripture and prayers fit today, even though they had been written and chosen over two weeks ago.

Right before my sermon, the plan had been for our Worship team to sing a song with a running powerpoint with all the pictures of the ministry and mission we had been engaged in for 2015. The song was from Broadway revival of Godspell. the song was Beautiful City using the updated lyrics as heard in this youtube video.

The lyrics were perfect to speak of the call to be in ministry not just in 2015, but in 2016 and 2017 and the years to come. The terrorists that continue to try and break people’s spirits, to force people to live in fear will not succeed as long as there are people who are willing to stand up and live and build a reign of justice and peace.

Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

HereWeStandParis

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